AVONDALE, Ariz. — Despite having two lug nuts that were “unsecure” by the NASCAR Rulebook following Saturday night’s Ticket Galaxy 200 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, NASCAR officials have confirmed that Elliott Sadler will be a part of the Championship 4 next weekend in Miami, Fla.
Sadler finished 13th and was never a major factor in the event, but ended the night 10 points above the cutoff line and second on the Chase Grid to advance to the final race of the season with a shot at his first-career series title.
That status was in question for roughly an hour after the race, before NASCAR Vice President of Competition Scott Miller met with the media and explained that Sadler only had two lugnuts that were in violation of the written rules, and as such would not receive a points penalty bouncing him from title contention.
However, Sadler will be racing at Homestead without crew chief Kevin Meendering, who has guided his No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet team all season long.
Meendering will be suspended by rule for one race, after Sadler also had a lug nut loose last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
“The unfortunate situation was that the inspectors found two lug nuts that weren’t up against the wheel, so what that means is that as it states in the rule book … is a crew chief suspension,” Miller said after the race in the garage area. “That’s what the rule book says. Two lug nuts off is a large fine and a crew chief suspension for one race, so that’s the situation they’re in. There’s not a multiplier that would affect points in any way, shape or form but we will review it to see if it’s a fine escalator or anything like that.”
“We’re just going to have to pull together as a team,” Sadler said of the news. “It’s not a secret that Kevin has made me (look like) a hero this year and has put great race cars underneath me, but we’ve got a lot of depth at JR Motorsports and those guys will rally around us to go to Homestead.”
“We’re still very blessed to be in this position. We’ve had a great season. Like I’ve said before, we’ve saved all our eggs for this one basket, really, and our OneMain Financial team will be ready. Kevin will be missed but he’s got a lot of good guys under him and I’ll just have to pull the lead. I’ve got a lot of experience (in high-pressure situations) and I need to rely on that and do my job next week.”
Despite losing Meendering from atop the pit box for the event, Sadler was quick to name his vote for who should fill the chair in next Saturday’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“Dale Junior, he’s coming out of retirement!” Sadler laughed when asked who would be the crew chief for his car next week.
“No, I don’t actually know … I’ll let those guys handle that part. Whoever Kevin wants to handle it is fine with me. I can work with anybody. I’ll let those guys figure out who they want on the box to call (the) shots and roll with it. Homestead, with the falloff that you have there, it’s not a tire strategy game because it’s four tires every pit stop … so we’ll see what those guys feel comfortable with, but I’ll put my vote in for Dale to come in and do the job, for sure.”
The 41-year-old veteran went on to say that he suspects JR Motorsports competition director Ryan Pemberton will fill the void for Meendering in the crew chief’s chair next weekend.
“It’ll probably be Pemby. He’s watched us every single week. He’s in our trailer after every single practice and he knows the communication that Kevin and I have right now, so he’d probably be the easiest fit to come in.”
“In a race where it’s winner-take-all, it’s tough (not to have our regular crew chief) but I’m a grown man, we’ve got a really good race team and we’re going to make the most of this situation. If I told you the emotions were easy, I’d be lying to you, but we’re not done. We’re ready to go after it next week.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as both the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series and the co-track announcer at Millbridge Speedway.
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